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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Govt grant to improve and streamline healthcare for aged care facilities residents

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The lack of coordination of care for residents in aged care facilities and other sectors of the health system has been a long-term problem for the aged care sector and was highlighted last year when 685 Australians in aged care homes died of COVID-related illness.

Monash University, through the National Centre for Healthy Ageing, has now received significant funding to create a digital health system that provides a centralised summary of residents’ data, giving clinicians, aged care facility staff and family members access to their health data in real time.

COVID-19 led to rapid movement of residents between sectors (residential aged care facilities (RACFs), primary care, hospital, ambulance) often en masse, with little or no accompanying information.

“Despite there being more electronic health data than ever before, information remains siloed, poorly integrated and underutilised.”

Associate Professor Nadine Andrew, Monash University

The federal minister for health, Greg Hunt, on June 27 announced a Medical Research Future Fund grant of $1.9 million for a Monash University project aimed at delivering a digital health solution for providing point-of-care clinicians and RAC staff, residents and their families, with information considered critical during the transfer of people living in RAC.

Associate Professor Nadine Andrew, from Monash University’s Peninsula Clinical School, Central Clinical School and the National Centre for Healthy Ageing, said there is a lack of coordination of data belonging to these residents.

“Despite there being more electronic health data than ever before, information remains siloed, poorly integrated and underutilised,” Andrew said.

“Importantly this project aims to transform primary care data for aged care residents in a way that can be commonly understood by a range of end users.”

According to Andrew, the effective management of medications, access to advance care directives and improved knowledge of a person’s ‘usual’ physical and cognitive function have been shown to support decision making that in turn reduces hospital admissions and other adverse events.

“However, disparate, low quality and often limited access to patient data across all sectors, and a lack of infrastructure to support effective and efficient sharing of data, means that access to this information is often limited or non-existent,” she said.

Once developed the system will be trialled across 3-4 RACs in the Frankston/Mornington Peninsula region.

The success of the program, according to Andrew, will be determined by measures such as:

  • Reducing avoidable hospitalisations by providing clear information to support paramedics in decision making about whether or not to transfer a person to hospital
  • Reducing medication errors in RACFs through improved data sharing between prescribers (hospitals and GPs)
  • Ensuring resident’s wishes, as expressed in their advance care directive, are accessible to relevant healthcare providers.
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